In her book, Dramaturgy in Motion at Work on Dance and Movement Performance, Katherine Profeta provides an insightful introduction of this term, giving various definitions to it as per its history. Mind you that I assumed the word meant, a spectator or some kind of audience. However, Profeta first introduces the term as “what is known in linguistics as a back-formation.”Profeta also includes Webster’s current definition of the term as “the art or technique of dramatic composition and theoretical presentation.” However, her expansion of the term with regards to its history shows a much wider and deeper insight on the term and the people responsible for its definition. Hence, the first dramaturgs.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing is, according to Profeta, the first dramaturg who actively carried out this task at Hamburg National Theatre. In which case, dramaturgy was defined as an activity, and a dramaturg, the one who carried out the activity. Profeta mentions that “Lessing’s example, the activity of the dramaturg was established as writing, critiquing, evaluating, and imagining a better future for the theatre.” This definition comes pretty close to my initial thoughts, right? However, there is more to what a dramaturg does as this implies that a dramaturg works like an economic analyst, overseeing everything and making forecasts. If anything were to go wrong, well…Even so, Profeta mentions that Lessing’s view of what dramaturgy is, proposed a model of “institutional dramaturg-the dramaturg whose purview is the mission and planning of the theatre institution, and not the inner workings of a rehearsal room.” Well, perhaps this outlook is far from my initial thoughts, I take it back. From this view is a bigger picture of what the dramaturg does, overlooking the whole theatre and not the rehearsal room. Profeta then introduces Bertolt Bretcht who however, entered the rehearsal room when it came to defining the activity of dramaturgy. Profeta states that “with Bretcht, the institutional dramaturg morphed into a production dramaturg,”which I presume means that the stage and not just the theatre as an institution, is involved. Later, dramaturgy is defined in an even broader sense with regards to structure, hence a shaping story into a form that may be acted on stage. Thus, the dramaturg engages with the process of making theatre and dance-sometimes closely, where they can even teach dance, and sometimes just looking over the process to ensure that all is according to the creator’s vision. The dramaturg can also assume the roles of others, not to take over their positions, but to challenge and offer different perspectives. The term is therefore explored by Profeta from when it was derived, by who and the implications of its definitions as it is related to dance and movement in theatre.
Being a new term, I was interested in finding out what the term meant and Profeta has succeeded in defining the term in its breadth and depth. And from these various definitions, it is clear to me that I can be a dramaturg in its simplest definition-that is, a critic and evaluator of what goes on in a rehearsal room, which I will be for this coming week. Even so, I also learnt that dramaturgy is different from other roles of direction or play production, but one can also be both as the ‘fore fathers’ did.